Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Smoking ban and budget restorations

Smoking ban finally could get some rules
By Hilary Russell
The legislature finally attempted to clarify the statewide smoking ban that took effect last January and that has lacked rules for its enforcement since then. Some Senate Republicans foresee problems, including the fuzzy guidelines about how and where people can fight their tickets.

“I still have some concerns with the ability of an individual to challenge a citation and where they’ll have to drive to get to that,” said Sen. Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican. “I think if we give this a little time for the legislation we’ve passed here to work, we’re going to see if that’s a real issue or not.”

The original smoking ban did little more than allow authorities to ticket individuals and businesses, leaving both law enforcement and smokers scratching their heads about how to issue those citations and how to appeal them. The new rules should take care of that, according to sponsor and incoming Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat. “We probably won’t need any more rules because the bill spells out exactly how it should be enforced.”

The ban prohibits smoking in most public facilities including restaurants, bars, student dormitories and office buildings. Ti
ckets could cost from $100 to $250. Exempt from the law are nursing homes and veteran’s homes with specific smoking rooms, private residences and state labs used for medical or scientific research. The Illinois Smoke Free Act went into effect January 1, 2008. Illinois is one of 22 states that prohibit smoking in public places.

One more shot at budget restorations

By Jamey Dunn
The legislature wants to restore funding for three executive officers, an economic development agency and some health care and conservation projects, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich doesn’t appear to agree with the legislators' last-minute attempt to get something done before a new General Assembly starts Wednesday.

The Illinois Senate approved a measure, SB 1132, Tuesday that would restore funding to the secretary of state, the attorney general, the treasurer, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and several conservation projects geared toward Illinois habitats, fish and birds.

Funding for the conservation projects was swept last year as part of a plan to restore deeper budget cuts enacted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich last year. But the funds are federally restricted and had to be restored.

Blagojevich also cut the executive officer’s budgets last year, particularly Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Both have said in the past that they thought these cuts were politically motivated.

The governor's office didn't seem inclined to sign the bill, however. A spokeswoman issued this statement by e-mail: “The state cannot afford additional spending during the current deteriorating economy. The state needs to find ways to save money right now, not spend it. The governor believes elected officials should be looking at ways to tighten their budgets —not increase them — during these tough economic times so that we can preserve the vital services we provide to Illinoisans.”

Sen. Donne Trotter, a Democrat from Chicago and chief budget negotiator, said he feels confident that the governor will change his mind about the cuts. Trotter said that the economic crisis and the need for federal funding would be two motivating factors for the governor to sign the bill into law.


Anonymous said...

This bill makes a lot more sense.

Anonymous said...

An even better one to end this nonsense.